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Delays in opening new West Coast hospital ‘unacceptable’

Delays in opening new West Coast hospital ‘unacceptable’ – DHB chair

Fletcher Building's endless delays in finishing a new base hospital for the West Coast are unacceptable, according to the new DHB chairman Rick Barker.

Fletchers began construction at the Greymouth site in 2016, and the $77.8 million building was supposed to open almost two years ago. The cost has now risen to almost $91 million.

A virtual tour of the new facilities, released in July 2018

Going by the latest estimates, it could be April 2020 or even later, before the much-needed hospital is finally signed off.

Mr Barker canvassed DHB members at their December meeting for their views on the delay.

Several said it was frustrating to have no control over a project that was costing the board money and affecting its ability to offer a good service to the community.

Others said they accepted the DHB had no power to solve the problem, and it was up to the Ministry of Health and Fletchers to sort out, via their contract.

"I don't want anyone to accept this. This is unacceptable," Mr Barker said.

"We need to make it clear to those responsible we are unhappy and they need to do something about it, not be under any illusion we accept it. "

The DHB has said the delay in opening the new building is costing it $50,000 a month.

Grey Base Hospital was having to repair old equipment which could not be replaced until the new hospital opened, and the unbudgeted maintenance bill was at $30,000 and climbing.

"This is putting at risk our ability to offer a quality health service to West Coast people," chief executive Davis Meates said.

Doctors have also pointed out that staff and patients in parts of the old Grey Base hospital are at ongoing risk in a building that is only 16% earthquake strengthened, in the most seismic zone in New Zealand.

Former Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove who chairs the governments West Coast Partnership Group, said he shared Rick Barker's frustration.

"When I was brought in to try to sort this, I predicted it would be late 2019 before the hospital was finished and people thought I was mad.

"It is with some disappointment I'm now saying it'll be the first or even second quarter of 2020 before it opens."

Fletchers had not once met a reporting deadline and there was little scope in the contract framed under the previous National government, to force them to lift their game, Mr Cosgrove said.

"We are doing all we can for the taxpayer to put pressure on the company by enforcing liquidation damages — and the delays are costing them but clearly not enough to motivate them to speed up."

Labour's West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said he had recently asked the Minister of Health, David Clark, to speak to Fletchers about the delays, and he had done so.

"At this point Fletchers are the only ones who can finish the job. They are the ones swinging the hammers.

"I completely understand people's frustrations with the build's progress. The last government's flawed approach to setting the framework for the build is a major impediment," Mr O'Connor said.

Mr Barker said he would be making the Board's frustration clear.

"The members on the board are very grumpy about this and Fletchers should not imagine that just because we haven't said anything so far that we accept this sort of treatment," he said.

Fletchers did not respond to a request for comment.

© Scoop Media

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